It’s nice to have a couple of snapshots of your tradeshow booth to show off on Twitter or your Facebook page.
But there are more reasons for taking pictures – a lot of them – of your booth.
Let’s start with the design and the look. Take snapshots of the booth from several angles so you get a good feel of how it looks from different directions. Next, take shots of the booth’s neighbors. No need to go crazy, just a few quick photos to see who’s next to you.
Now, take some close-ups. Tradeshow booths are only pulled out of their crates a few times a year, and if you have photos of details it might save you a trip to the storage area to open the crate. Take close-up photos of graphics. In fact, pull out a tape measure and take photos of all of the graphics so you have ‘real-size’ documentation of the graphics. You might be surprised at the difference between the specified size and the actual size. Good information to have on hand. Depending on the number of graphics, this might take awhile.
Is there any part of the booth that is damaged, worn, torn? Take photos to show exactly what’s going on so that when the booth returns home you can be specific about repairs that may be needed.
In some cases, you may want to hire a professional photographer to take photos of your booth. The best time to do it is prior to the show opening, so there are few people on the floor. A professional portfolio of your booth may come in handy for a variety of reasons. You can release photos to the media, send them out on social media where they’ll stand out from the crowd, and you may find that the exhibit can be entered in a design contest (like our friends at SoYoung last year).
To really stick in someone’s mind, you must be meaningful to him or her.
From “Meaningful: The Story of Ideas that Fly” by Bernadette Jiwa:
“It’s easy to believe that ‘meaningful’ applies only to the businesses in what some people might call the ‘do-good’ sector of non-profits, sustainability and so on. But every one of us, from a software company to a cab driver, is in the meaning business. Without meaning, products and services are just commodities and nobody wants to be in the commodities business.”
So how does that apply to the tradeshow floor? What does it take to create enough meaning for a visitor that will stay with them long after the show is over?
It boils down to the people. Creating the product is comparatively easy. Getting attention is not all that hard. But sticking in someone’s mind means that the people you employ must understand what it is that is important to the visitors, and what affects them: what about your product or service means something to them?
It’s not an easy answer. And if you don’t know the moment you walk onto a tradeshow floor, you probably haven’t spent any time discussing it with your team prior to the show.
However, a tradeshow is a good opportunity to explore that meaning with your visitors. Think of it: there are thousands of visitors to the show. When they stop at your booth, take time to ask questions. By looking a customer in the eye, you have an opportunity that isn’t available when you’re just talking on the phone or asking people to fill out an online survey.
A tradeshow is an intimate encounter in the sense that you are talking to someone face to face. Yes, there are hundreds of conversations over the course of a three or four day show. As Bernadette put it in the book:
“Bricks-and-mortar businesses have the advantage of intimacy, online businesses, which must collect a ton of (often valuable) data to learn more about their customers and determine how to give them what they want….but the waiter sees the wrinkle nose, the barista remembers the regular and the doctor hears the stories that inputs from the keyboard can never fully communicate.”
Use that face-to-face opportunity to talk with people and really understand what they like and don’t like about your products and services. And make it formal to the extent that when you’re asking questions, you’re writing the answers down. Share that data with others in the company.
Ultimately, your job is to make people happy. If your clients find true meaning in the services and products you provide – enough to make them happy with your company – you’ve done your job.
Your tradeshow booth is, hopefully, a thing of beauty. You spent days, weeks, and maybe months working with a designer, then a graphic designer, then a marketing team, then a fabricator to create the perfect big booth.
Then you set it up at a tradeshow where you paid tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of bringing your crew and the booth to show it (along with your products or services, of course) to thousands of people.
And Joe the Attendee and Jill the Attendee walk by at a brisk clip, take a 4 or 5 second glance, or don’t even look up, and keep walking.
What happened? You think the booth is beautiful!
They didn’t give it a second glance.
There are many reasons why this might be.
The real challenge for you is this: how do people outside of your world see your exhibit?
When you’re considering what your booth is saying about you, consider as well what the attendee sees when they walk by. What does it mean to them? How do they react to what they see?
Look at it from their perspective. Is the messaging clear to people who have never heard of you? Does your brand ring clear and deliver itself without misunderstanding?
If your brand is strongly communicated and your messaging is clear enough for those who have never heard of you to easily understand it, your designers and fabricators have done their jobs.
Got a chance to hangout on Google with Ken Newman of Magnet Productions and Andy Saks of Spark Presentation and discuss what it means to be a professional tradeshow presenter. Lots of fun, and yes – I did learn a bunch!
Just returned from Expo West in Anaheim where I had a number of tradeshow booth clients, including Bob’s Red Mill, gDiapers, Aisle7 and Hyland’s. One of my goals at this particular show was to do informal assessments of a couple of dozen booths, including booths that I picked at random, and those of companies that responded to my 2-minute video I posted about ten days before the show.
Since I have a handful of client booths at the show, I am disqualifying them from winning any awards (although I think they all were top-noth projects)!
Before getting to the awards, a few comments: first, these are for fun only. Nobody actually wins anything substantial except a mention in this blog. Second, while I spotted a number of booths that would qualify for awards such as ‘Most Cluttered,’ ‘Most Confusing’ and ‘Shouldn’t Even Be Here Because Mom Didn’t Approve it’ the point is not to speak ill of booths that should be improved. Hey, I can’t help everybody, right?
So, without furthre adieu, let’s begin:
Cleanest Look & Most Pristine Representation of a Brand: R .W. Garcia. Not a custom booth, but an aluminum frame-and-fabric construction, nonetheless this captured my attention with its attention to detail. The graphical heirarchy was clean: company name at the top with secondary bullet points describing the company’s products. The back wall graphic was dominated by images of chip bags, so there was no doubt about the company’s products.
Most Iconic Use of an Icon: Guayaki Brand Yerba Mate. Okay, I only caught one photo of this, but the use of a life-size cutout of the Pope drinking tea stopped me in my tracks and made me want to have Yerba Mate with His Holiness.
Best Story on a Booth: Amy’s Kitchen debuted their new booth in 2013, and this 30×30 island clearly captures the company’s natural image, including a back wall section with photos and captions detailing the company’s history.
Best Interactive Booth: While there were several booths that invited attendees to write notes on a board, YesTo asked people to write what they would say YES to.
Best Use of Shipping Crates: Several booths use shipping crates as part of their booth to save on time and shipping expense. Ridgecrest Herbals showed how its done with branded shipping crates that doubled as counters, benches and product display.
Best Dancing Mascot: SweetLeaf, with their Sweet Drops Sweetener doing his/her shaking to a live guitarist.
Best Use of an Olympic Stud: Drink Chia! How can you top an impromptu aisle race featuring Olympic athlete Justin Gatlin? (check out his race here)
Most Elaborate Use of Booth: Clif Bar. The 40×40 island that Clif Bar used to represent their brand included not one, but two enclosed client meeting rooms, two sample stations, messaging that showed their love of fun and helping Mother Earth and the creative use of repurposing old wood for something new. And more. Hanging plants in wooden boxes. Bicycle gears. Old window frames. The steep usage of the word ‘organic.’ With all of this disparate yet congruent elements, this booth came close to a Terry Gilliam dream (go ahead, look him up. I’ll wait.).
And finally, Best MashUp of a Beatles Album Cover: Love Birch. With their wacky replacement of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s heads with leaves, Love Birch took the iconic Abbey Road album cover and turned it on its head, and in the process stopped people in their tracks.
This is the 13th consecutive year that I’ve attended Expo West, and it still seems fresh and fun, bigger and bolder and more overwhelming every year.
A few final observations: while there was a lot of use of social media this year, it didn’t seem to be anything out of the norm for most companies. Several companies invited attendees to ‘like’ them on Facebook, or tweet out a photo for a prize, but not as many as you might think would.
I was also on the lookout for QR Codes, and was a bit surprised to find only one on display. I had tasked myself with testing each and every QR Code I ran across to see if it worked. This one didn’t. The invitation next to the code was to ‘like’ us on Facebook, yet when I scanned the code, I was taken to a home page of a website – not optimized for a smartphone – and there was no indication of how to get to Facebook from there.
With QR Codes seemingly fading from popularity at least at this year’s show, perhaps that’s a good thing since it seems that so many QR Codes fail at least one part of the test: tell people what they get when they scan, make sure its optimized for a smartphone, and then test it all to make sure it works.
Last week I flew into Houston to give a presentation for ISES Houston for their monthly meeting. This one focused on tradeshow marketing and was hosted by 2020 Exhibits. The presentation went over the various aspects of what it takes to compete on the tradeshow floor.
Definitely a fun time had by all: thanks to Vivian at Juz Do It Productions and Becky at 2020 Exhibits for making this all come together.
We haven’t met before, but I thought I might take a few moments to share some thoughts on your upcoming quest to find a new tradeshow booth consultant to assist with design and fabrication.
First – congratulations! Tradeshow marketing is one of the most effective ways of marketing – IF you do it right. If you do it wrong, it can possibly be the biggest waste of marketing dollars you’ll spend this year. And if you do it wrong, you’ll have little to show for it. And if that happens, your mind will be poisoned with the thought that tradeshow marketing is a WASTE of TIME AND MONEY!
But…if done right, tradeshow marketing can be the BEST way to spend marketing dollars. Why? First, it brings you face-to-face with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people that are in the market for what you’re selling.
Second, it gives you a chance to establish a brand in visitors’ minds in just a few short seconds as they approach your booth. That brand can be reinforced by a well-trained staff once those visitors spend a few moments at your booth.
Third, it can cut the cost and the length of the sales cycle. By meeting people at a tradeshow and qualifying them (or disqualifying them as the case may be), you can quickly determine where they are in their pursuit of your product or service. That also quickly determines your next step – which can be confirmed with them before they leave your booth.
Finally, while tradeshow marketing can be exhausting, it can also be FUN. You can get your team away from the office to a far away city. By getting people out of their comfort zone, they tend to depend on each other. By focusing on the exhibiting task at hand during the day, you build trust and respect and confidence in your team. By letting off a little bit of steam after hours with each other, you help each of them appear more real.
So, what to do first?
Here’s a quick checklist before you choose an exhibit and design team.
Know your goals. Define those goals and be specific. Even though the overall goal of tradeshow marketing – any kind of marketing – is to grow the business and bring in more sales, each show may have a slightly different goal because of the nature of the show. If you plan to exhibit only once a year, it may work to try different exhibit companies out. But if you plan to exhibit several times a year, take your time to work with an exhibit consultant that you are comfortable with and enjoy working with personally. If an exhibit house is competent – and certainly most are – the most important factor is how well you get along with them.
Understand the timeline. If you are looking to purchase a small ten-foot inline booth from a catalog, you really don’t need much time to do that. Graphic design will usually take the most at this point. On the other hand, if you’re building a 30×30 custom booth, plan on several months. A recent large custom booth our company worked on took about 8 months from the kick-off meeting to the set-up at the show. Know your timeline and build in extra time for reviews and speed bumps – you’ll always have them. A good tradeshow project management knows what a realistic timetable is and can advise you on what it will take depending on what you want.
Know your budget, and remember that exhibits can be expensive. If you don’t have a realistic idea up front what your company is able to spend for a tradeshow booth for design and fabrication, it can get awkward awful quick! Any reputable designer will not start on a design until he knows how much a company has to spend. A good consultant will likely start the conversation by sharing industry averages, and then explaining how their company’s pricing compares to those numbers. For a quick rule of thumb, for inline booths, expect to spend around $100 a linear foot. For custom island booths, the price can range upwards from about $140 per square foot. Electrics and special lighting can drive the cost up, but those are good rules of thumb to start with.
Plan on training your team. Even if it’s a small show with just a couple of staffers, it pays to be prepared. When your team knows how to quickly qualify and disqualify visitors, it will immediately increase the lead count. Booth etiquette is important, too. No eating, talking on cell phones, standing with arms crossed, etc. All of those behaviors – and more – keep visitors away.
There’s more than just the show – there’s pre-show marketing and post-show follow up. Before the show, your company should be reaching out to potential visitors, informing them of the tradeshow appearance, and what you’ll be doing there: new products/services, special appearances, contests, etc. A social media marketing full press before the show will help draw interest and people to the show and to your booth. A good tradeshow marketing consultant will be able to assist you with planning and execution of your pre-show marketing. Post-show follow up is twofold: sales and marketing. Sales will be following up on all of those leads based on urgency; marketing will be taking content created from the show (videos, photographs, etc) and dripping them out via social media and other outlets to not only remind people of your appearance, but to tease them a bit for next year’s show.
Designate a point person for all ‘official’ communication between your company and the consultant company. While your company may have a marketing team all chiming in with their opinions on the design and fabrication process, when you designate a single person to funnel all communication through, decisions become easier – and final. If the team decides that the color is blue and the point person communicates that to the consultant company’s point person, then that decision is final and the process moves forward.
Jump in! Once the kick-off meeting is underway, trust the process. If you’ve never gone through the process of designing and fabricating a tradeshow booth that fits your company’s needs, keep in mind that your consultant has done it – many times. They’re professionals. Trust them to stay in touch and guide you through the many decision points you’ll have along the way. Follow the designer’s lead and offer your candid assessment of the design and watch how it changes until it becomes a final product ready to be fabricated. Trust your graphic designers. Trust your instinct.
By following this checklist, you’ll go into your booth project with eyes open.
If you’re going to a tradeshow as an attendee, or putting on an event of your own, here’s a shortlist of the various things you’ll want to consider as the base elements of our online promotion:
Event website: should contain event information such as schedule, days, times, locations, etc. This is your basic high school journalism approach of the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. This is also where your online registration forms will be. The page should also be populated with the various social media buttons that allow attendees to share the information, whether before or after they have registered.
Media Kit: Your digital media kit is where the press and attendees or even those just with a passing interest will find more detailed information in a variety of formats: event descriptions, videos (interviews, show previews, testimonials, etc.), photos of past events (speakers, exhibitors, locations); logos, banner ads and any flyers or posters you want to make available to promote the event.
Blogs: of course you should have an event-specific blog. While it’s tempting to fill the blog with self-promoting posts, you’ll have a much better chance to gain readers and traction by sharing information on problem-solving, issues, and how-to’s within the blog. You may, for instance, have case studies on how a product or service got a client over a hurdle. Or you may have examples of problems the industry faces and the various ways those problems are handled. The blog needs to have links to all of the various social media and event registration sites, too.
Social Media: before the event sit down with your media promotion team and plan out the timeline of promotions: tweets, photo opportunities, social media sites you’re focusing on and the various people that are tasked with social media engagement. Identify the partners and colleagues in your industry that you’re looking to team with on certain elements; identify (and agree upon) responsibilities. The more you know ahead of time, the easier the event execution will be. Plan tweets, PR meetings, industry trade blogs and publication connections and more.
Going Mobile: a majority of your event attendees will be using mobile access to the various social media outlets, so your online presence (blogs, websites) should be optimized for smartphones. If the event is big enough, you might consider creating an event app (lots of companies would be happy to do this for a fee!) so that all information is easily available anytime/anywhere.
E-Mail: an oldie, but goodie, e-mail is still effective at promotion. And remember that in these days of mobile access, less is more. Streamline your emails down to the barest critical information so that they get to the point and are easily read on a smartphone.